Understanding the potential for restoration through agroforestry in Hawaiʻi

Date
2021
Authors
Hastings, Zoe
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Ticktin, Tamara
Department
Botany
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Abstract
Agriculture is a major driver of global environmental change. Restorative practices like agroforestry, that integrate native and non-native, culturally important plants while mimicking the structure and function of native forests have the potential to increase biodiversity and ecosystem services of conventionally managed and fallow agricultural lands. However, what the potential is of restoring these lands using agroforestry and who is able to participate in agroforestry transitions remains a question. I focus on agroforestry transitions in Hawaiʻi, where a long history of Indigenous agroforestry and more recent interest in biocultural restoration provide an important context for understanding equitable pathways to agroforestry today. In the first chapter, I show how integrating co-production of knowledge with functional trait approaches to designing restoration and agroforestry research with local stakeholders can lead to more inclusive and scalable results. In the second chapter, I apply this approach to an experimental restoration that asks, 1) do initial measures of restoration success (i.e., understory composition, understory cover, and mid- and over-story survival) vary between treatments over the first two years, and if so, are these treatment effects mediated by other drivers, and 2) how does the ecological condition of the site compare to pre-restoration? Based on plant community metrics, the results show that non-native forests have a high potential for restoration through agroforestry, and this provides an important first step in documenting what non-native forest to agroforest transitions can look like. The third chapter is a state-wide study, in which I ask, what factors drive and/or restrain transitions to agroforestry, and who is able to participate? I found that agroforestry practitioners are motivated to restore ecosystems and reclaim sovereignty, not just by the direct or practical benefits of agroforestry. Practitioners’ values often conflict with the values of dominant funders, landowners, and other institutions, which produces unique obstacles. Access to off-site resources that are inequitably distributed often determines who can persist despite the obstacles. Taken together, the findings in this dissertation highlight the significant opportunity to restore conventionally managed and fallow agricultural lands through agroforestry and the need for structural change to ensure equitable access to the opportunity presented by these land use transitions.
Description
Agriculture is a major driver of global environmental change. Restorative practices like agroforestry, that integrate native and non-native, culturally important plants while mimicking the structure and function of native forests have the potential to increase biodiversity and ecosystem services of conventionally managed and fallow agricultural lands. However, what the potential is of restoring these lands using agroforestry and who is able to participate in agroforestry transitions remains a question. I focus on agroforestry transitions in Hawaiʻi, where a long history of Indigenous agroforestry and more recent interest in biocultural restoration provide an important context for understanding equitable pathways to agroforestry today. In the first chapter, I show how integrating co-production of knowledge with functional trait approaches to designing restoration and agroforestry research with local stakeholders can lead to more inclusive and scalable results. In the second chapter, I apply this approach to an experimental restoration that asks, 1) do initial measures of restoration success (i.e., understory composition, understory cover, and mid- and over-story survival) vary between treatments over the first two years, and if so, are these treatment effects mediated by other drivers, and 2) how does the ecological condition of the site compare to pre-restoration? Based on plant community metrics, the results show that non-native forests have a high potential for restoration through agroforestry, and this provides an important first step in documenting what non-native forest to agroforest transitions can look like. The third chapter is a state-wide study, in which I ask, what factors drive and/or restrain transitions to agroforestry, and who is able to participate? I found that agroforestry practitioners are motivated to restore ecosystems and reclaim sovereignty, not just by the direct or practical benefits of agroforestry. Practitioners’ values often conflict with the values of dominant funders, landowners, and other institutions, which produces unique obstacles. Access to off-site resources that are inequitably distributed often determines who can persist despite the obstacles. Taken together, the findings in this dissertation highlight the significant opportunity to restore conventionally managed and fallow agricultural lands through agroforestry and the need for structural change to ensure equitable access to the opportunity presented by these land use transitions.
Keywords
Botany, Geography, Ecology, agroecology, biocultural restoration, functional traits, Indigenous and local knowledge, political ecology, sustainable food systems
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125 pages
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